Fort Wayne to allow open alcohol in downtown area

Fort Wayne, the second-largest city in Indiana, is planning to create a designated outdoor refreshment area (DORA) in its downtown area that will allow people to buy and carry alcoholic beverages from approved restaurants and bars. The city council introduced an ordinance on Tuesday that would establish the DORA under a new state law that aims to promote economic development and enhance the downtown experience.

What is a DORA and how does it work?

A DORA is a mapped-out district, typically within a downtown or mixed-use area, where patrons 21 and over can purchase alcoholic beverages from approved establishments and carry them outside and within the DORA boundaries. Any person of legal age in a DORA carrying an open container of beer, wine, or liquor is generally exempt from prosecution under the open container law if the drink was purchased from a participating DORA vendor.

The DORA operates under Indiana Code §§ 7.1-3-31, which was enacted in 2015 and allows qualifying municipalities and townships to apply for a DORA designation. The application must include a map or survey of the proposed DORA, the number and types of liquor permit holders within the DORA, a sanitation and safety plan, and a public hearing notice. The DORA must not exceed 0.5 square miles and must have at least four liquor permit holders within its boundaries.

Which businesses are eligible to participate in the DORA?

According to the current version of the ordinance, the following businesses would be eligible to serve alcohol that can be brought outside in the DORA:

Fort Wayne

  • 816 Pint & Slice
  • Copper Spoon
  • Dash-In
  • GnomeTown Brewing
  • JK O’Donnell’s
  • Mercado
  • Nawa – Inspired Asian Cuisine & Cocktails
  • Papi’s Pizza
  • Próximo
  • Teds Snack + Bar
  • Tolon

The DORA would cover most of the downtown area, including the Landing, the Arts Campus, and the Harrison Street corridor. The map of the proposed DORA is shown below:


What are the benefits and challenges of the DORA?

The city hopes that the DORA will boost the local economy by attracting more visitors and customers to the downtown area, especially after the pandemic. The DORA would also create a more vibrant and social atmosphere that would enhance the quality of life and the image of the city.

However, the DORA also poses some challenges and concerns, such as public safety, sanitation, and enforcement. The city would have to ensure that the DORA is well-monitored and regulated to prevent underage drinking, intoxication, littering, vandalism, and other potential problems. The city would also have to coordinate with the participating businesses, the police department, the health department, and other stakeholders to ensure the smooth operation of the DORA.

The city council will hold a public hearing on the ordinance on January 9, 2024, and will vote on it on January 23, 2024. If approved, the DORA would go into effect on February 1, 2024, and would be valid for three years, with the possibility of renewal.

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